Money Lessons Caribbean Roots

Formal personal finance education programs in the Caribbean, are few and far between, yet the informal lessons I learned about money growing up in the region still informs the way I use it.

Here are different money lessons from my Caribbean roots.

Living Within Your Means Was Your Reality

One of my first realizations about money as a child was that how much cash you had determined how much you could spend. Back then, credit cards weren’t a thing and nor making daily purchases with the swipe of plastic, routine.

Groceries, and school uniforms and supplies, and many other wants and needs were paid mostly in cash.

Save First and Spend Later

Saving for large purchases was another widespread practice, I witnessed growing up.

It was just as common to both save up for a down payment on a mortgage, for example, as it was to start buying the building materials for your home with cash, before you even approach a bank.

Some home owners even built their homes in a piece-meal fashion, by constructing each phase of a family home after saving enough to pay in cash.

If You Borrow, Pay Your Debt Fast

Although Caribbean people have a strong culture of saving, there were still times that you would take on debt.

How you handled that debt though, was to pay it off faster than required. This was especially true when it came to consumer debt. 

The are many times I heard the phrase “I don’t want to owe anybody,” from my family and other adult relatives, as they prioritized paying off debts, fast.

The are many times I heard the phrase “I don’t want to owe anybody,” from my family and other adult relatives, as they prioritized paying off debts, fast.


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Extended Family Is Your Financial Safety Net

In my twin-island Federation, there is no government sponsored unemployment insurance, nor a large scale program for cash payments for individuals or families to make up for low or non-existent income.

Your extended family provides housing, and financial support in cash and in kind to relatives in need. With multi-generational living arrangements as a standard, family members can easily pool incomes, and other resources, share the overhead costs and the financial need of things like childcare.

Side Hustles Are A Way Of Life

Unemployment rates in the Caribbean can top more than 30%, and what are called “side hustles” stateside are a way of life in the Caribbean.

It was not atypical for an individual’s income to be made up of a collection of side hustles. Nor was it uncommon to patronize your home economics teacher, as she vends local treats on a downtown street corner every Friday afternoon.

Supplementing your income is something that you just have to do.

These lessons have had a big influence on how I use money and I especially credit them for enabling me to pay off debt, save and invest while providing support to my extended family.

What are some money lessons you learned growing up?

~ Melisa Boutin